Sunday, August 30, 2009

Merlin and Another 1st

After returning home from Thursday's Brandon work party, where we managed to complete the cutting back of Willow Island & Wigeon Bank vegetation, I took 'Quidditch' out and moored at bridge 100 of the Oxford Canal for the holiday weekend.
The spot where I prefer to moor near Flecknoe affords good views of the surrounding countryside where I often see good numbers of Yellowhammer, Goldfinch and Linnet.
However, over breakfast on the towpath yesterday morning Saturday 30th, I was treated to a rare site of a Merlin (library picture) hunting in the Field opposite! Watching what I first though to be a Kestrel I was suddenly scurrying inside for my scope having picked up a definite bluish flash of colour. Having been entertained by my find for a little over 20 minutes my breakfast ended with the site of 2 Raven heading South-East over the canal.
In the afternoon I took a walk with my wife Dee towards Braunston where we picked up excellent numbers of Speckled Wood and several Common Blue butterfly. Another item of note was a flock of some 40+ House Sparrows which were feeding on a recently cultivated Field.
This morning, Sunday 30th, having been able to position my car nearby to our mooring I took my usual drive out to Brandon for an early morning visit. A chilly start and by the time I arrived the sun was just creeping above the horizon. One of my favourite places at Brandon in the early hours, when the sun is just right, is New Hare Covert. As the sun shines through and lights the tree tops it's very easy to spot movement in the canopy, even at this time of year when the trees are in full bloom. I regularly pick up Treecreeper and Nuthatch and on this occasion another first for Brandon.
Shortly after passing Sheep field I was joined by JR and minutes after entering New Hare JR picked up a Spotted Flycatcher high up in the canopy, were not entirely certain but there may have been two! Anyway we had excellent views of the one for a good 20 minutes before continuing on towards the Wright Hide for coffee and another Brandon 1st for me!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Brandon 1st

On a recent walk through the reserve a sudden sharp blast of wind sent a number of early leaves tumbling to the ground and I suddenly realised that autumn is approaching rapidly, and with it more possibilities of the odd migrant dropping in.
The number of Geese at Brandon are most certainly on the increase with large amounts of Greylag and Canada starting to appear, plus Snipe are once again a regular feature with a count of 10 on Saturday August 26th. Shoveler, at present in eclipse plumage, are also returning and becoming regular to the pools, numbering 15 during my most recent count.
A first for me at Brandon in the form of a single Dunlin (pictured), which appeared on East Marsh Pool during Saturday's visit, this brings my total bird species count at Brandon to 112 since joining the conservation team in December last year. Having said that I continue to miss out on other personal site firsts, which seem to appear on the reserve when I've literally just vacated a hide, or on the odd days I don't visit. This time a Marsh Harrier seen over Newlands reedbed on Friday and during yesterday mornings visit, Sunday 25th, a Spotted Flycatcher observed from Teal Pool Hide in one of the nearby dead trees. A couple of Lesser Whitethroat, which fortunately I do have a tick for on the reserve, were also seen by other members of the 'Sunday Club' at Carlton Hide.
Green Sandpiper and Greenshank were still on site yesterday plus we had brief cameo's from a LR Plover, which settled briefly on Willow Island and a Common Tern, plus I also still picked up the odd Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler calling, although a decent number are still around. Cetti's Warbler are also beginning to call once again throughout the reed beds.

While working on Shotton's Gully on Thursday August 20th I came across a Common Grass Snake who I unfortunately disturbed while moving one of the corrugated sheets. Also pictured above are Common Blue, currently in good numbers & Small Copper Butterfly which are also found in smaller numbers at various spots around the reserve.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Passing Through

Several of my usual visits to Brandon have yielded a little more in the way of Waders recently as the recent rain water continues to drain off the pools, revealing decent feeding areas once again, but more on this shortly!

Firstly, a mention regarding an adult pond dipping session which both my wife and I attended at the nature centre last Friday evening. Not my cup of tea but I'd been persuaded by my better half to attend and have to say that I had a really enjoyable couple of hours. Among other species seen on the evening were Great Crested Newt, Great Diving Beetle, Smooth Newt, Great Water Boatman and some unwelcome Mosquito Larvae!

One bonus of attending the dipping session was the opportunity for an afternoon visit to the reserve which actually paid dividends. A reported influx of 14 Greenshank (pictured) gave way to various sitings around the reserve and I was able to pick up 3 on the Friday evening, followed by 4 in total for Sunday 16th visit. Sunday's visit was also one of those frustrating ones when only five minutes after leaving the Teal Hide a Juvenile Cuckoo was seen and photographed! Nice one George!!

On the butterfly front I've been seeing a further decline in numbers, but many Peacock and various White's still remain on site, plus excellent numbers of Common Blue and several Small Copper.

Today's visit, Tuesday 18th, was noted for 12 Black Tailed Godwit which took flight off Willow Island (East Marsh Pool) at around 8.30am, plus 2 Hobby which flew across the pool feeding on Dragonfly. Also on my list for today were lone Greenshank and Green Sandpiper, plus a Common Sandpiper briefly seen in flight over West Marsh, 6 Snipe, 3 Kestrel, Water Rail, Little Grebe and Nuthatch also added to my list of 53 species.

Finally some exciting news regarding an Otter Sighting at the reserve, which was also pictured by one of the reserve's many photographers!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Harvest Moon

A different kind of post to end a perfect Saturday at our home Marina. The day started with an early breakfast and the usual scan out of the hatch over coffee.

The many Mallard which frequent the mooring and a lone Male Tufted duck which seems to have taken a shine to the locality were on view. The usual Yellowhammer was singing from a nearby Hawthorn and our small Tree Sparrow population were also present. Later in the morning two Common Buzzard were seem circling over the nearby copse.

In recent days a good influx of Swallow have been a delight to watch as they scoop low for a well earned drink. One of my fellow moorers has slightly over reacted in my opinion by putting his fishing keep net over his TV aerial in a bid to stop them from taking a breather, sighting a poor TV reception as the reason!!

This evening we barbecued during which time we watched the odd Common Tern making their way South, plus more Swallows in play and shortly after the sun set we encountered a rising harvest moon to the east, a large ball of light, copper in colour, suddenly appearing from some low cloud. A little while later we were treated to a low flying Bat, probably a Pipperstrelle, as it flew low over the flat calm pool.

The most amazing sight however was what appeared to be a slow moving meteor travelling east at the zenith which seemed to take an age to disappear but appeared to have a small tail as it burned up high in the atmosphere! It was just one of those evenings to remember and well worthy of a mention!!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Brandon - 06/07/09

A beautiful but muggy start this morning but by the time I'd completed my tasks with the Conservation Team the heavens had finally opened.

On my usual walk through New Hare Covert I was lucky enough to get good views of Coal Tit, Willow Tit and for the first time in ages on the reserve Goldcrest, all of which were feeding in one of the golf course Pine Trees. Fewer butterflies than of late but I still managed Small White, Gatekeeper, Peacock and Speckled Wood.

The Lapwing population (pictured) at the reserve continues to increase and the current numbers are probably up to circa 800, a great sight when the flock are put up, a Sparrowhawk the culprit once again at around 7.30am.

As the River Avon is currently running high the River Pool remains the same with water breaking over the bund and into Teal Pool but to be honest very little was on show. Despite this several large Carp were basking quite close to the hide, one of which resembled a Koi Carp, extremely red in colour against the others, which were probably Common.

East Marsh Pool is still suffering from lack of waders due to the recent rain eliminating the muddy areas, apart from a lone Oystercatcher, but offered the usual waterfowl which included Shoveler, Teal, Tufted, Mallard and increasing numbers of Canada and Greylag, 2 Common Tern (1 of which is a Juvenile) were also still present this afternoon.

A visit to the Carlton Hide yeilded the best results for Waders, which this morning included Green Sandpiper and Redshank. The Juvenile Little Grebe was also showing and appears to be fending for itself. Although Sand Martins and a few Swallow are still showing well no records today of Swift, which by now are already beginning their journey south, but who came blame them in the current climate?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wet Brandon!

Well no surprise in the recent forecast update from the Met Office, to be honest the best way to tell the weather is to put your head out of the door the morning your off birding. I've even lost faith in the 5-day forecast, which changes daily!!
My normal visits to Brandon over the last fortnight have been, as you would imagine, wet ones although I managed another tick on my Brandon list. Recent sightings of a Black Tailed Godwit (pictured)had eluded me over the period but during a visit last Sunday (Aug 2) I managed to pick the little fellow out amongst the Lapwing flock, now numbering around 600, when a Sparrowhawk spooked them over Willow Island. Some excellent views of Water Rail, including 2 young, moving across the area in front of the Main-Hide have also been a regular feature.
I'm pleased to say that our Gadwall and 3 chicks are still in tact and are getting bigger by the day and it would seem that this might not be the only brood of Gadwall on the reserve this year!
Being in my first year at Brandon every experience is new and I have to give a mention to the fantastic butterfly population on the reserve, which has just been a delight, especially on a slow birding day. I have now personally logged 18 more species since joining the Conservation Team and have been able to improve on my recognition dramatically thanks to other members.
Yesterdays visit, Tuesday 4th, turned out to be an excellent birding day, despite the heavy showers. I was able to pick up a very respectable 59 species which unfortunately did not include Sunday's Godwit. The highlight was an amazing show of small birds which included Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Reed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Willow Tit.
With the recent heavy rain we have temporarily lost the muddy areas on Teal Pool and the East Marsh Pool although sluices have been set to drain some of this however, the Carlton Pool remains the focus for Waders which included 2 Green Sandpiper, 2 Redshank and the return of a single Snipe, which are reappearing now after a summer break.